Decline and Droop

Talking Heads worry about The Male Infertility Crisis but independent thinkers should [as always] wonder whether the Talking Heads are just talking bollocks.

One of the modern Shock! Horror! scare stories is the decline in male fertility.

Sperm counts among men have more than halved in the last 40 years, research suggests, although the drivers behind the decline remain unclear.

The latest findings reveal that between 1973 and 2011, the concentration of sperm in the ejaculate of men in western countries has fallen by an average of 1.4% a year, leading to an overall drop of just over 52%.

After accounting for factors including age and how long men had gone without ejaculation, the team found that sperm concentration fell from 99 million per ml in 1973 to 47.1 million per ml in 2011 – a decline of 52.4% – among western men unaware of their fertility.

For the same group, total sperm count – the number of sperm in a semen sample – fell by just under 60%.

Sperm counts among western men have halved in last 40 years – study
The Guardian – Nicola Davis – 25 Jul 2017

Talking Heads suggest sperm counts are sliding towards zero.

The male infertility crisis is a name given to an observed increase in male infertility in recent decades.

The earliest indications of this decrease first emerged in the 1970s.

From this period there has been a steady decline of 1.4% in sperm counts.

The matter is particularly relevant in the west in New Zealand, Australia, Europe & North America. A reduction in other parts of the world has yet to be observed.

In its original form, it had begun as a study on male fertility.

Evolving into a term used by journalists in the media as a common headline for the reporting for studies concerning sperm, infertility and declining male sexual performance.

Wikipedia – Male Infertility Crisis

The Male Infertility Crisis seems to have started in 1992.

The Male Infertility Crisis from 1992 has a few notable features.


Amalgamating 61 data sources spread over 52 years suggests the analysis will find it very difficult to escape the Plasticine Effect.

If you mix all three primary colours you get BROWN.

Not pleasant-warm-new-conker brown, or deep-dark-mysterious-nearly-black brown, but yucky-sludgy-just-come-out-of-the-wrong-end-of-a-cow brown.

Shitty brown in simple terms.

The colour your Plasticine always ended up. So never mix three colours together, in similar quantities, as they will always tend towards the more unpleasant variety of brown.

The Unstuck Diaries – John Coombes – 8 April 2005

For example:

The 41 small studies [of less than 100 men] and the 20 large studies [of 100 or more men] produce very different results and support very different predictions.


Any predictions based upon the linear regression produced in 1992 will [more than likely] be very misleading because:

a) Mother Nature very rarely produces straight lines.

b) The data is better aligned with a polynomial trend line.


The decline in male fertility appears entirely natural after the World War II Baby Boom between 1946 and 1964.

A baby boom is a period marked by a significant increase of birth rate.

The most well-known baby boom occurred in the mid-twentieth century, beginning in the late 1930s or early 1940s and ending in the 1960s.

The baby boom occurred in countries experiencing damage from war and economic hardships. In the United States the baby boom was attributed to numerous veterans returning home post-war, in 1945.

Wikipedia – Baby Boom

Human fertility depends on factors of nutrition, sexual behavior, consanguinity, culture, instinct, endocrinology, timing, economics, way of life, and emotions.

Wikipedia – Fertility

Fecundity can increase or decrease in a population according to current conditions and certain social factors. For instance, in times of hardship for a population, such as a lack of food or high temperatures, juvenile and eventually adult fecundity has been shown to decrease (i.e. due to a lack of resources the juvenile individuals are unable to reproduce, eventually the adults will run out of resources and reproduction will cease).

Wikipedia – Fecundity

The recorded history of population Booms following population Busts [caused by war, pestilence, famine, drought, and depressions] dates back to at least the Black Death.

Malaga Bay – The Hecker Horizon: Coincidental Catastrophe

After the cessation of the Black Plague, a greater fecundity in women was every where remarkable — a grand phenomenon, which, from its occurrence after every destructive pestilence, proves to conviction, if any occurrence can do so, the prevalence of a higher power in the direction of general organic life.

Marriages were, almost without exception, prolific ; and double and treble births were more frequent than at other times ; under which head, we should remember the strange remark, that after the ” great mortality ” the children were said to have got fewer teeth than before ; at which contemporaries were mightily shocked, and even later writers have felt surprise.

The Epidemics of the Middle Ages – 1859
Justus Friedrich Carl Hecker – Translator: Benjamin Guy Babington

The Black Death resulted in the deaths of up to 75–200 million people in Eurasia and North Africa, peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351.

The Black Death was the second disaster affecting Europe during the Late Middle Ages (the first one being the Great Famine of 1315–1317) and is estimated to have killed 30% to 60% of Europe’s population.

Wikipedia – Black Death

The study that excited the interest of the Guardian in 2017 also has some notable features.


The 2017 study amalgamates 185 data sources spread over 38 years.

This suggests the study is very unlikely to escape the Plasticine Effect.

Studies with fewer than 10 men and those that used non-standard methods to collect or count sperm (e.g. methods other than masturbation for collection, or methods other than hemocytometer for counting) were also excluded.

The meta-regression analysis is based on the remaining 185 studies, which included 244 unique mean SC estimates based on samples collected between 1973 and 2011 from 42 935 men.

Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis
Hagai Levine, Niels Jørgensen, Anderson Martino-Andrade, Jaime Mendiola,
Dan Weksler-Derri, Irina Mindlis, Rachel Pinotti, Shanna H Swan
Human Reproduction Update – Volume 23 – Issue 6 – Nov-Dec 2017

Compared to samples obtained from masturbation, semen samples from collection condoms have higher total sperm counts, sperm motility, and percentage of sperm with normal morphology[citation needed]. For this reason, they are believed to give more accurate results when used for semen analysis.

Wikipedia – Semen analysis


The 2017 study includes a “simple linear regression” plus the results of their “meta-regression model” that appear to be the basis for the Guardian’s “decline of 52.4%” comment.

After accounting for factors including age and how long men had gone without ejaculation, the team found that sperm concentration fell from 99 million per ml in 1973 to 47.1 million per ml in 2011 – a decline of 52.4% – among western men unaware of their fertility.

Sperm counts among western men have halved in last 40 years – study
The Guardian – Nicola Davis – 25 Jul 2017

A final point to ponder whilst wondering whether the Talking Heads are just talking bollocks is that the sperm count associated with the end point of the 2017 linear regression is only marginally lower that the end point of the 1992 linear regression.

In other words:

The sperm count decline following the Baby Boom levelled-off in the 1970s.

Since then sperm counts have experienced a modest decline that are probably associated with the decline of manufacturing in Western economies and the marginalization of traditional male behaviour aka Toxic Masculinity.

Malaga Bay – Thad Beversdorf: Death of an Economy

The concept of toxic masculinity is used in academic and media discussions of masculinity to refer to certain cultural norms that are associated with harm to society and to men themselves.

Traditional stereotypes of men as socially dominant, along with related traits such as misogyny and homophobia, can be considered “toxic” due in part to their promotion of violence, including sexual assault and domestic violence.

The socialization of boys in patriarchal societies often normalizes violence, such as in the saying “boys will be boys” with regard to bullying and aggression.

Wikipedia – Toxic Masculinity

But, as always:

Review the evidence and draw your own conclusions.

There is a red flag word that can occasionally help mere mortals to differentiate between research that’s the dog’s bollocks and researchers that are talking bollocks.

That red flag word is aetiology.

A temporal decline in human and dog sperm quality is thought to reflect a common environmental aetiology.

Temporal trends in human semen quality are paralleled by a similar trend in dogs that live in the human household, where sperm motility declined by 30% over a 26 year period.

Independent and combined effects of diethylhexyl phthalate and polychlorinated biphenyl 153 on sperm quality in the human and dog – Rebecca N Sumner, Mathew Tomlinson, Jim Craigon, Gary C W England & Richard G Lea
Scientific Reports volume 9, Article number: 3409 (2019)

By invoking aetiology researchers can [very conveniently] avoid having to explicitly state that “correlation does not imply causation”.

aetiology (countable and uncountable, plural aetiologies)

1. The establishment of a cause, origin, or reason for something.

2. The study of causes or causation.

3. (medicine) The study or investigation of the causes of disease;
a scientific explanation for the origin of a disease.

Wiktionary – aetiology

In statistics, the phrase “correlation does not imply causation” refers to the inability to legitimately deduce a cause-and-effect relationship between two variables solely on the basis of an observed association or correlation between them.

Wikipedia – Correlation Does Not Imply Causation

British Telecom Advert – 1988
Maureen Lipman: Ology

An ology.
He gets an ology and he says he’s failed.
You get an ology – you’re a scientist!

By invoking aetiology medical researchers can avoid having to reveal their assertions aren’t “scientific” and their correlations don’t demonstrate disease causation.

Koch’s postulates are four criteria designed to establish a causative relationship between a microbe and a disease.

The postulates were formulated by Robert Koch and Friedrich Loeffler in 1884, based on earlier concepts described by Jakob Henle, and refined and published by Koch in 1890.

These postulates were generated prior to understanding of modern concepts in microbial pathogenesis that cannot be examined using Koch’s postulates, including viruses (which are obligate cellular parasites) and asymptomatic carriers.

Koch’s postulates … have largely been supplanted by other criteria such as the Bradford Hill criteria for infectious disease causality in modern public health.

In 1965, the English statistician Sir Austin Bradford Hill proposed a set of nine criteria to provide epidemiologic evidence of a causal relationship between a presumed cause and an observed effect. (For example, he demonstrated the connection between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.)

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9 Responses to Decline and Droop

  1. Boris Tabaksplatt says:

    There as been an approx 20% increase in the number of people cycling over the last 30 years. There is a possible link between sperm count and cycling. So riding along wearing tight fitting Lycra shorts may be a bad idea if you want to have offspring.

    “A 10-year survey by a Boston-area fertility centre that observed 2,261 men – from all walks of life and not just elite athletes – who contributed over 4,500 samples of sperm. Investigators correlated the sperm parameters with the level of exercise, focusing on sperm density (the number of sperm per millilitre), sperm motility (the percentage of sperm that were moving), and sperm morphology (what the sperm look like).

    The study found that men cycling more than five hours per week had a lower sperm concentration than either sedentary men or those doing other types of exercise. It’s also interesting that the association with the lower sperm counts was not affected by the patient’s age or weight.”

    • malagabay says:

      The kamikaze cyclists in London led me to conclude Lycra attacked the brain.

      • Boris Tabaksplatt says:

        Sort of confirms what my wife thinks, ‘Most men keep their brains in their trousers’.

        I bought myself a pair of Spandex cycling shorts many moons ago, thinking they would improve my street-cred, Only wore them twice as I discovered the fabric doesn’t breath and I soon got uncomfortably hot and sticky with sweat. So went back to the old cotton ones.

  2. malagabay says:

    The history of Lycra is quite something.
    The re-imagining of Lycra in the 1970s is a curious coincidence.

    • Boris Tabaksplatt says:

      “80% of US clothing contained Spandex”

      Mm, perhaps its not just confining the testees close to a hot body, when they prefer to dangle free that causing all of the problem. Could the polyethylene glycol or other precursor used in the production of Lycra can stay in the fabric. Could also be that in the many people who have an allergy to polyethylene glycol, the substance effects sperm production too. Interestingly, polyethylene glycol is used in a wide range of medicines, including the experimental Pfizer vaccine for CoVid-19.

      • malagabay says:

        Thank you!

        Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is a polyether compound derived from petroleum with many applications, from industrial manufacturing to medicine.

        PEG is also known as polyethylene oxide (PEO) or polyoxyethylene (POE), depending on its molecular weight.

        A PEGylated lipid is used as an excipient in both the Moderna and Pfizer–BioNTech vaccines for SARS-CoV-2.

        Both RNA vaccines consist of Messenger RNA, or mRNA, encased in a bubble of oily molecules called lipids.

        Proprietary lipid technology is used for each.

        In both vaccines, the bubbles are coated with a stabilizing molecule of polyethylene glycol.[medical citation needed]

        As of December 2020 there is some concern that PEG could trigger allergic reaction, and in fact allergic reactions are the driver for both the UK and Canadian regulators to issue an advisory, noting that: two individuals “individuals in the U.K… were treated and have recovered” from anaphylactic shock.

        As of 18 December, the US CDC stated that in their jurisdiction six cases of “severe allergic reaction” had been recorded from more than 250,000 vaccinations, and of those six only one person had a “history of vaccination reactions”.

        Wikipedia – Polyethylene glycol

        Malaga Bay – Reality-Based Community

      • The Male jewels have a natural system of cooling control, since excess heat kills the juice.
        Ethylene glycol, an antifreeze for car radiators keeps engines at correct temperatures.
        So what can go wrong with the vaccines? 🙂

  3. Boris Tabaksplatt says:

    As a “citizen scientist”, who studied chemistry at university, I find it hard to believe that the result of the Pfizer trial has any statistically significance. The vaccinated group had only 11 fewer infections out a total of 36,621 participants. Be interesting to see the results between two matched groups of a the same number of people as were used in the Pfizer trial, all who received just a placebo. But perhaps it’s just me being too picky?

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